Immigrating to the UK as a professional sportsperson is a route for exceptionally skilled sports players who are recognised internationally for their abilities.
The Immigration Rules do not allow Points Based System (PBS) migrants or their dependants to work as professional sportspersons or coaches (please refer to our previous blog detailing the definition of a professional sportsperson). The only exceptions to this are the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) and the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) categories.
In many cases, unless an applicant qualifies to come to the UK under a family route (e.g. ancestry visa, partner of a British person or settled partner or the family member of an EEA national), a professional sportsperson has no other option but to consider applying under the Tier 2 (Sportsperson) or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) routes.
The Tier 2 and Tier 5 routes differ in their requirements, however, both application routes require a Governing Body Endorsement (“GBE”) and a Certificate of Sponsorship (“COS”). In order to apply, both categories require the applicant to demonstrate that they have an offer of employment with an appropriate club.
Governing Body Endorsement (“GBE”)
In order to receive GBE, the applicant must satisfy a number of requirements. The requirements differ depending on the Governing Body but the standard across the board are exceptionally high.
In some cases, if an applicant does not meet the requirements for endorsement, the club may be able to appeal to the Governing Body’s Exceptions Panel. The requirements to do so depend on the individual sport.
Certificate of Sponsorship (“COS”)
The club must have a valid Sponsor Licence in order to proceed with a sponsored hire. If the player receives GBE, the club will be required to apply for a COS, which is a certificate produced from their Sponsor Licence and to allocate the certificate to the individual accordingly. Once the COS has been allocated, the applicant can submit their own personal application, which will be assessed by the Home Office.
Tier 2 (Sportsperson) – Key Facts
Under this route, the applicant must demonstrate that they meet the English Language requirement.
The route allows applicants to apply to bring their dependant family members to accompany them to the UK. It is possible for the club to support the maintenance costs associated.
If granted, the visa is valid for 3 years or the length of the contract with the club (whichever is shorter). The applicant may be eligible to apply for an extension after 3 years. Following 5 years in the UK, the applicant may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, provided that they satisfy the requirements. After a further year and in some cases earlier, the individual may be eligible to naturalise as a British citizen.
Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting)
There is no English language requirement under this route.
The route allows applicants to bring their dependant family members to accompany them to the UK. The club cannot certify the maintenance of dependant family members.
Under this category, the applicant is granted a visa for 12 months or for the length of their contract (whichever is shorter). The applicant may be eligible to apply to extend their visa by 12 months. After two years in the UK, the individual must leave. They may subsequently be able to apply to re-enter the UK.
As stated above, the standard to apply to come to the UK as a professional sportsperson is very high. The applicant must be a truly exceptional sportsperson and must have been offered a position within a UK club.
The application process can be somewhat complex and the requirements vary greatly depending on the sport.
Gherson has over 30 years of experience in assisting with all visa categories and immigration matters. Should you require assistance or advice in respect of the above application routes, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.